OnePlus is a phone company, but it seems every phone company from China is starting to make TVs. Why? Well we don’t know, but the smart TV and the smartphone seem to go hand in hand lately. With everything having to be smart, the push to make TVs smarter than just displays has attracted smartphone manufacturers, and that might actually be a good thing.
Smart TVs have generally been quite… dumb. Sure they have a few apps built in, but the interfaces are slow, clunky, and aggravating. At first boot, my Samsung smart TV takes a good 10 seconds to show the input menu after I press the remote’s button. Basic functionality is sacrificed for frivolous features. That’s not to say that smart TVs are a bad idea, but the implementation thus far has been unsatisfactory. Many of us would rather plug a Chromecast in and enjoy our content that way.
However, it does seem that the latest series of smart TVs are starting to fix that. Huawei’s attempt with the Honor TV looks pretty legit. It’s designed for the Chinese market, but it seems to be focused on content consumption with a buttery smooth UI and tons of services built in.
The OnePlus TV is also looking promising. Though we don’t know much about the software, OnePlus has done pretty well in that regard when it comes to smartphones so we expect the TV software to be good. But the hardware alone is pretty impressive.
The display will feature a 55-inch 4K QLED (not OLED) panel with HDR10+ support and Dolby Vision. In addition, there will be an 8 speaker setup pulling a peak of 50 watts. It’s also Dolby Atmos supported so it should sound pretty great. In an age of absolutely awful TV speakers in the pursuit of the thinnest TV, this is an appreciated change few manufacturers have made.
However, the part that gives us pause is the pricing. The prices in India are 69,900 INR ($990 USD) for the standard model and 99,900 INR ($1,410 USD) for the pro model. Now that’s not astronomical for a TV, but it is pretty expensive. You can find plenty of 55-inch 4K smart TVs for well under $500, even at your local electronics store. You can even spring for last year’s OLED models for about $1,000. With the price of a standard OnePlus TV being just under $1,000, it’ll be a tough sell.
The other issue is the whole purpose of OnePlus. The company started with the original OnePlus One, which was labeled “The Flagship Killer” and retailed at just $299. OnePlus was synonymous with quality smartphones at budget prices. Nowadays with the Pro line, they’re reaching into near-flagship territory but many of the compromises of the older OnePlus devices are gone. Now you’re getting a truly flagship experience for lower-than-flagship cost. And the non-pro models still offer much of the flagship experience on a budget.
Launching a TV for a thousand dollars is the furthest thing from budget. Sure you’re getting a fancy new QLED panel with HDR10+ and an array of Dolby Atmos speakers. You’ll probably save $150-200 on that sound bar you were going to buy, if the speaker system lives up to the hype. But it’s the antithesis to the entire purpose of OnePlus as a company. It’s both a strange marketing tactic and a shot to the foot.
When you’re shopping for a premium product, do you look to the budget brand? Are you willing to drop BMW money on a Kia? No, and that’s why the Stinger sold so poorly. Are people going to look to OnePlus when they’re shopping for a $1500 TV? It’s hard to believe that will be the case.
I don’t quite see what OnePlus is trying to achieve by breaking into the higher end TV segment when their brand is built on budget. I also don’t see them succeeding, even if the end product is good. Most people are going to spring for that $400 smart TV with the same 4K resolution, HDR10 functionality, and Google Assistant support. And to be honest… they might end up sticking a Chromecast in it and ignoring all the smart features anyway.